Stephan James and Jasmine Cephas Jones on their Emmy-nominated roles in #FreeRayshawn

The Emmy nominees are dishing on the motivations behind their powerful characters

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If you haven’t had a chance to check out Quibi’s incredible project, #FreeRayshawn, it’s time to add it to your list.

It’s the story of a young, Black Iraq War veteran named Rayshawn (Stephan James) who finds himself in hot water after he is set up by New Orleans police on a drug deal. When he runs for his life and takes refuge inside his apartment building with his wife (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and their young son, his future doesn’t look too good.

With New Orleans PD and the SWAT team outside ready to storm his home, a social media frenzy begins as community members and news outlets arrive at the scene. During this growing mayhem, a sympathetic cop named Steven Poincy (Laurence Fishburne) plays the role of negotiator and, over the course of one brutally stressful day, he tries to get Rayshawn to calmly surrender in order to avoid an escalation of unnecessary violence.

Read More: Laurence Fishburne on playing a Black cop in Emmy-nominated Quibi series ‘#FreeRayshawn’

theGrio caught up with both of the Emmy nominees to find out how they feel about the powerful project. James shared that working on the series was “a very profound thing” for him.

“I really, truly believe that every actor, every crew and cast member on this project had a personal and impassioned dedication to this,” he says. “Unfortunately, it’s a timely story. It’s one we see time and time and time again, so maybe it’s not that timely. I think we knew how important it was. We knew that even though these characters were fictitious characters, there was an obligation we had to be a vessel of truth and of humanity. To put a face behind a statistic. We’re often written off as just numbers.”

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The actor continues, “I think it’s important for people to be a fly on the wall in this apartment and to see that Rayshawn is a father. To see that Taisha is a mother and see that they’re husband and wife and they love each other and they have a baby. Ultimately, you just want people to see that they’re human beings.” 

Jones’ performance makes quite the impact and the actress admits she found herself admiring the strength in her character, Tyisha. 

“When we first actually got the script, she wasn’t written like this, so deeply. We had a conversation before and really explored her and Rayshawn’s relationship and it really grew out of that conversation and how, you know, she’s experiencing everything just as much as he is,” she explains. “She really became kind of like this ‘Jill of all trades.’ She’s trying to keep her son safe and tend to him…She has no idea what’s going on and then kind of demands her respect and demands answers from her husband while risking her life in front of a window because she won’t sit down until he tells her.

Read More: William Jackson Harper on his Emmy nom and protesting for social justice

Jones went on to highlight her character’s strength for “sharing this story just as much he as he is” and doing her best to find the truth and “protect her son and protect her husband.”

“She has these kind of panic attacks in the middle of all of it; then she goes in the other room and has a smile on her face for her son,” she continues. “I think a lot of these victims and their families and what they go through and the pain that they go through and then have to turn around and smile for their children because they don’t know exactly what’s going on. I mean, that’s real life. I think she’s really, really strong for that.” 

#FreeRayshawn is streaming now on Quibi.

Check out the full interview above.

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